Thursday, February 26, 2004

Commutes signal population shift

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

If you live in Cincinnati and drive to work, there's good news: Your commute is getting shorter.

But the drop could mean another sign of the continued exodus from the region's population center to the suburbs, as suburban Butler County now has the worst commute in Ohio and Kentucky.

All the local commute times were under the national average of over 24 minutes, about two minutes more than in 1990, according to new estimates released Wednesday by the Census Bureau.

The average one-way trip in Cincinnati is 20.6 minutes, down from 23.2 minutes in 2000. The latest figure rates as 56th worst in the country, down from 32nd in 2000.

Yet Cincinnati saw a 9 percent drop in population in the 1990s, and another 2.2 percent of residents left between 2000 and 2002, while Butler has seen double-digit population growth over the last decade.

Butler County saw its commute time go from 21.1 minutes one-way in 2000 to 22.9 minutes in 2002. Warren, Clermont and the Northern Kentucky counties were not in the study.

Ohio officials say that commute times and population drops or growth are directly related.

"We're seeing an increased volume of traffic on all our highways, interstates and state highways alike," said Department of Transportation spokesman Ron Mosby. "This indicates people are driving longer to their jobs, and there is no doubt that more people are traveling between counties. Highways like Interstate 275 are being used more heavily because there are more jobs out there as well."

More people are driving to work alone - about 77 percent in 2002, up from 73 percent in 1990, said Phil Salopek of the Census Bureau.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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